Francisco Zúñiga (Mexican, 1912-1998, Conejos (Detail) from the portfolio Grabados en Madera, 1934, woodcut. Purchase: Gift of Paul K. Kania, 2018. (2018.15.3)

Use household ingredients to create Mexican folk art creatures.

Mexico is famous for its folk-art culture. Mexican folk art is usually bright and colorful, especially the folk art tradition of alebrijes. Alebrijes are brightly colored sculptures of fantastical animal-like creatures. In Mexico they are usually made with paper mache or wood.

To make our alebrije sculptures, we are first going to make salt dough.

Supplies Needed:

  • ½ Cup of Salt
  • 1 Cup of Flour
  • ¾ Cup of Water
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Paint (Acrylic or Tempera)
  • Paintbrush
  • Tinfoil (Optional)
  • Oven (Optional)
  • Baking sheet (Optional)

Steps to Make Your Alebrijes:

  1. Measure out the salt, flour, and water and combine together in a bowl until it’s evenly distributed and smooth. Using your hands is quicker and easier (even if it is a little messy). If your dough is too dry, add more water. If it is too wet, add more flour. When dough is mixed, knead until it is smooth.
  2. Once dough is workable, begin to shape your alebrije sculpture. If you have a hard time shaping your dough, you can create a tinfoil ‘skeleton’ to support it. Rabbits, dogs, cats, foxes, and owls are popular alebrijes, but you can create any animal or creature. Use your fingers to pinch and pull the dough into the shapes you want for your animal.
  3. Once you’re done with sculpting your alebrije, you can either bake it in the oven at 180ºF for a few minutes, until it hardens or leave it out to dry for a few hours.
  4. Once dry, use bright yellows, greens, oranges, pinks, and reds to paint your alebrije. After painting the body, finish with using black paint to create patterns and details like the eyes and fur.
  5. Store extra salt dough in a plastic bag to use later.

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